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Nearly driven mad by their emotions and their anger at a world that does not understand them, six teenagers manage, despite their extreme maladjustment to society, to discover their own unique talents and their destiny in life.
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Neal Shusterman is a New York Times bestselling author and has written numerous award-winning books for children and young adults. His books include, The Skinjacker Trilogy (Everlost, Everwild and Everfound), Full Tilt, Unwind and Unwholly. He also writes screenplays and several of his books are now in development as films. Neal lives in Southern California when he's not travelling the globe, and can be found online at Storyman.com.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
PART 1 · AMERICAN DRAGS
1. THE DESTROYER
A shattering of glass.
A monstrous crash echoing through the glass-domed restaurant--and then a second sound so horrid and final it could have meant the very end of the world. The way thunder must sound to a man struck by lightning. The ear-piercing rattle of breaking glass, combined with the deep wooden crunch that followed, pinned the high and low ends of human hearing, and what remained between were dying dissonant chords like that of a shattered--
The restaurant's maitre d' could not yet believe his eyes. He stood dumbfounded, trying to figure out what on earth had happened.
The final tinkling of ruined crystal fell from the ornate glass roof of the Garden Court Restaurant--the pride and joy of the Palace Hotel--the most beautiful restaurant in all of San Francisco. Until today. Today shards of the crystal ceiling were stabbing the plush Victorian furniture to death.
And it was a piano--or what was left of it, lying like a shipwreck in the center aisle.
Is God dropping pianos on us today? thought the maitre d'. I should have called in sick.
The restaurant was closed, thank goodness--Sunday brunch did not begin until eight--but workers and early-rising guests had already gathered to gawk.
Of course it must have been the piano from the new Cityview lounge, up on the top floor, but how could it have come crashing down eight floors, through the glass roof?
"Should I notify security?" asked one of the waiters, but somehow the maitre d' was sure security had already figured out there was a problem.
* * *
In like a flash and out in the blink of an eye.
The boy called Dillon Cole was in the street in an instant and vanished into the foggy morning. The streets were not crowded, but there were enough people for Dillon to lose himself among unknown faces. He wove through them, brushing past their shoulders, leaving a wake of chaos behind him. The souls he bumped into lost their concentration and sense of direction--a woman stopped short, forgetting where she was going; a man lost his train of thought in the middle of a conversation; a girl, just for a moment, forgot who she was, and why she was even there....but then Dillon passed, and their thoughts returned to normal. They would never know that their confusion was caused by Dillon's mere touch. But Dillon knew. He wondered if believing such a thing was enough to send him to the nuthouse. If that wasn't enough to have him locked away, certainly the other things would do the job.
Things like that business with the piano. For all the commotion it had caused, it had been an easy enough stunt. It was a simple thing to get into the deserted top-floor lounge on a Sunday morning. Since the grand piano was on wheels, it hadn't been that hard to ease across the floor, out onto the patio. As he moved the piano, his fury had grown along with the burning, screaming need to finish this act of destruction--a need that ate at his gut like an uncontrollable hunger.
Adrenaline coursed through his veins, giving him incredible strength as he heaved the piano onto the ledge--but all he could feel was that wrecking-hunger, forcing him on like a hot iron drilling down to his very soul. He hoisted the heavy beast of a piano onto the ledge, where it balanced for a moment, floating between possible futures, and then it disappeared, taking the railing with it.
One second. Two seconds. Three seconds.
The impact came as a deafening scream of dying crystal as the great glass roof eight floors below was shattered...and the wrecking-hunger was instantly quelled. That pressure deep inside was released by some invisible escape valve. Dillon took a deep breath of relief and didn't spare the time to look at his handiwork. He got out.
Wearing a bellhop uniform he had taken from a storage closet, Dillon took the elevator to the lobby and left without anyone giving him a second glance--and why should anyone suspect him? He was fifteen, but could pass for seventeen; he was an attractive, clean-cut, redheaded kid who simply looked like one of the kids the bell captain was training. So no one noticed him as he slipped out into the street, where he quickly took off his bellhop jacket and vanished into the morning.
Now, the hotel was far behind him and, in front of him, the stairwell of a BART station descended into darkness. Fog swirled around it as if it were the mouth of a black cave, but to Dillon it was a wonderfully welcome sight.
Once he was down the stairs and heard the approaching train that would carry him away, he knew he was home free. He dropped the bellhop jacket in the trash as he hurried to catch the train. He was not caught. He was never caught.
The train stopped, Dillon found a seat, and it rolled on. Only now, as the hotel fell farther and farther behind, did he relax enough for the worries to fill his head.
Please, he begged. Let no one be hurt. Please let no one be hurt. The restaurant was closed--but what if a waiter had been setting tables? What if a housekeeper had been vacuuming the rug? Dillon was always careful--he was always good at predicting exactly how his little disasters would unfold, and so far there had been no major injuries...but he was starting to slip--the wrecking-hunger was making him careless. When the hunger to destroy came, it was all-consuming and didn't allow him second thoughts. But now in the aftermath of his horrible deed, when his spirit seemed to hang like that piano on the edge of its drop, he could clearly see the ramifications of these awful, awful acts.
People could have died! And I won't know until I see the news. The weight that now burdened his soul was truly unbearable...yet it was more bearable than the hunger, which always came back, making him forget everything else. He would fall slave to it again, and the only way to escape was to destroy something. Anything. Everything. The bigger the better. The louder the better. And when it was done the pressure would be gone. The hunger would be fed, and the relief would be rich and sweet like a fat piece of chocolate melting in his mouth.
But the wrecking-hunger had been getting worse lately. It didn't come once a week anymore. Now it came almost every day, pushing him, pressing him, demanding to be fed. Even now as he sat on the train, he felt the hunger again. How could it be? So soon! Wasn't the piano enough? It was the biggest, it was the loudest, it was the worst he'd done yet. What more did he have to do to be free of this terrible hunger?
The woman sitting next to him on the train eyed him with a look of motherly concern--a look Dillon hadn't seen for the entire year he had been out on his own. She glanced at his shaking hands.
"Are you all right?" asked the woman.
And then she touched his hand to stop it from shaking.
"No!" said Dillon, but it was too late. She had touched him.
Her face became pale and she shrank away.
"Ex...excuse me," she said in a daze, and she wandered off to find a seat far away from Dillon. Then she sat down to begin the task of unscrambling her mind.
* * *
"What are you afraid of, Deanna?"
"Everything. Everything, that's all."
Deanna Chang's pale hands gripped the arms of her chair as if the chair were the only thing keeping her from being flung into space. The room around her was painted a hideous yellow, peeling everywhere like flesh, to reveal deep red underneath. The place smelled musty and old. Faces on fading portraits seemed to lean closer to listen. The walls themselves seemed to be listening. And breathing.
"I can't help you, Deanna, if you won't be specific."
The man who sat across from her at the old desk shifted uncomfortably in his chair. I make him nervous, thought Deanna. Why do I even make psychiatrists nervous?
"You can't help me, okay?" said Deanna. "That's the point." He tapped his pencil on the desk. The eraser fell off the end and rolled onto the stained floor.
I hate this place, thought Deanna. I hate this room, I hate this man, and I hate my parents for making me come here to hear the same questions the other shrinks had asked, then give the same answers, and have nothing change. Nothing. Ever.
A woman's voice wailed outside, and Deanna jumped. She couldn't tell whether the sound was a shriek, or a laugh.
"I'm afraid," said Deanna. "I'm afraid of dying."
"Good. That's a start."
Deanna began to rub her pale, slender arms. Behind her and beneath her, the springs within the padding of the chair poked and threatened her through the fabric of the worn upholstery. "At first I was just afraid of walking outside alone. I thought it would end up being a good thing, because it made my parents move us to a better neighborhood--but it didn't stop when we moved. I started to imagine all the terrible things that could happen to me." She leaned forward. "That was two years ago. Now I see myself dying every day. I see my body smashed if our house were to collapse. I see a man with a knife hiding in the closet, or the basement, or the attic in the middle of the night. I see a car with no driver leaping the curb to pull me beneath its wheels...."
"You think people are out to get you?"
"Not just people. Things. Everything."
The shrink scribbled with his eraserless pencil. Somewhere deep within the building a heater came on, moaning a faint, sorrowful moan.
"And you imagine these awful things might happen to you?"
"No!" said Deanna, "I see these things happening to me. They happen, I feel them--I see them--It's REAL!" Deanna reached up and brushed cool sweat from her forehead. "And then I blink, and it--"
"And it all goes away?"
"Sometimes. Other times the vision doesn't go away until I scream."
The shrink in the cheap suit loosened his tie and put his finger beneath his collar. He coughed a bit.
"Stuffy," he said.
"I'm not safe going out," said Deanna. "I'm not safe staying in. I'm not safe here--b...
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Book Description Tor Books, 1995. Hardcover. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P110312855060
Book Description Tor Books, 1995. Hardcover. Condition: New. Seller Inventory # DADAX0312855060
Book Description Tor Books, 1995. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0312855060
Book Description Tor Books. Hardcover. Condition: New. 0312855060 Please allow 4 - 14 business days for Standard shipping, within the US. Seller Inventory # XM-0312855060
Book Description Condition: New. New. Seller Inventory # STRM-0312855060